Recent Troubles With Suns Continues For Raptors

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November 29, 2009

Mike Ulmer - raptors.com

Sadly, this is not news.

The Toronto Raptors were handled easily on their home court by the Phoenix Suns, Sunday by a count of 113-94.

The Suns have now beaten the Raptors 12 straight times. They are also rocketing along at 14-3 while the Raptors have now lost three straight and sit at 7-11.

Unchanged as well is the architect of the Suns great play and Phoenixs domination of the Raptors.

The Suns play in Toronto once a year. A year ago in January, point guard Steve Nash returned to seal a victory over Canadas sole remaining NBA club thanks to a driving layup with 13 seconds left. Nash finished with a season-high 18 assists and nine points.

Sunday, the numbers were even more eye-popping. Nash shredded what, to be fair, is the leagues second most porous defence, for 16 assists and a team-high 20 points. Two of those baskets came with Nash shooting over seven-footer Andrea Bargnani.

Kind of like an average game, said Suns guard Grant Hill. Weve come to expect that.

Makes you wish Nash was from Guam. I mean, the Grinch came once a year too.

Its one of 82 games when you step on the court, but its more special than that for me, said Nash. I spent so many summer here with the national team and getting the support from Raptors fans is very special to me.

Thirty-six years old in February, Nash is enjoying a Renaissance; that is if you consider 15.7 points and 9.7 points a game last year something to atone for.

I thought Steve did a great job, said Suns coach Alvin Gentry. I thought he just controlled the whole game.

Said Gentry: I wouldnt trade him for anybody in the league. I really wouldnt.

Im sure if Chris Paul was available Nash said dryly when told of his coachs comments, but the question remains: who is better than this guy?

Nash has what only the greatest athletes are gifted with. He looks like the only guy on the rink wearing skates. Nash fearlessly drives the ball, probing, angling, leaning, juking like a waterbug in a teacup. Finding resistance, he kicks it out with uncanny accuracy. Lean toward the perimeter and he goes to the basket and if there is one thing more jarring than a 23-footer from a completely uncovered shooter, its the sight of a little point guard cutting into the heart of your defence for lay-ups.

Pick your poison, said Raptors coach Jay Triano.

You can, but the result is always the same.

The Suns, the number one team from the arc in the NBA got 39 points via the longball thanks to 13 true shots out of 30.

The Raptors, the third-best, hit one for 20. Really.

Thats a 36-point bulge.

When you go one for 20, thats the difference in the game right there, Triano said.

Nor did he feel any of those shots were ill-conceived.

I wouldnt take away one shot from any of our guys, he said. There was not a forced three. Weve got to take them next time.

So there are a few ways of looking at this. The Raptors, proficient behind the arc just had a bad day.

But its not like the Suns are one of the leagues best defensive teams. Only three teams defend the three more inefficiently than do the Suns.

But three straight losses is disconcerting enough and while Jarrett Jacks solid play still gives the Raptors one of the better guard-backup combos in the league, Jose Calderon struggled mightily against the Suns. In 32 minutes, Calderon went one for seven, delivered seven assists and scored only two points. Jack, meanwhile, finished with 10 points in 22 minutes.

After criticism that the Raptors didnt defend teammate Chris Bosh after the Celtics Paul Pierce mugged and taunted him Friday, the Raps leaped to their feet when Stoudemire knocked Bosh down to draw a flagrant foul.

Assistant coach Marc Iavaroni jumped to his feet spread his arms like an offensive lineman and prevented any of his players from leaving the bench.

Thats how the reaction should have been, said Triano, who was unimpressed with his teams lack of support in Boston.

The Raptors host the Washington Wizards on Tuesday at Air Canada Centre.